I was too tied up to attend the conference last weekend but I caught the opening ceremony where they played a video which really touched me. I'll post it once I've uploaded a copy of it. From the Borneo Bulletin:
Bandar Seri Begawan - "Since 2004, 315 individuals have so far been diagnosed with autism in Brunei Darussalam, 50 were diagnosed last year, and 50 more up to June. This means that we have 1:150 autistic births, which is similar to USA.
"These are frightening statistics", said Malai Hj Abdullah bin Malai Hj Othman, President of Smarter Brunei, during the 5th Brunei National Conference on Autism 2007.
"Our present centres could not cope with these numbers and what happens to all the rest who are not registered with Smarter? What future do they have and what will become of our children in the future?"
He spoke of the everyday plight of bringing up a child who is autistic. "Every day activities that we take for granted like brushing teeth is such a battle. Now imagine every little bit of life skills need to be taught in detail and repeatable. It is time-consuming and draining us mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially as well."
He appealed to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health to provide assistance and support so that the development of the children so far does not falter. Financial aid is needed to cater for the educational support and management of the centre. The need for a bigger building is also needed to accommodate the growing children, especially those approaching their teenage years, not to mention other assistance such as continuous service support to lighten the burden of families with autistic children, he said.
The opening ceremony yesterday was officiated by Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dewa Major General (R) Dato Seri Pahlawan Hj Awg Mohammad bin Hj Daud, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.
He said that the negative perceptions concerning Smarter will decrease once its genuine aim and desire of its establishment is realised. He said that Smarter should be given untarnished appreciation in its efforts to lighten the burden of the families with autistic children, and that relevant authorities should give assistance and support in realising the objectives of the association.
The guest of honour viewed the exhibition, which showcased the psychology of autism, how it affects children, books related to autism, and the indoor and outdoor activities organised by Smarter especially for the children.
A paper from Deanne Michaels and Jonathan Yendall on "Paper 7 - Strategies Towards Advocating an Autism Friendly Society" (Support Sytem of US, UK, Canada and Singapore) was presented yesterday.
A parental experience presentation was done by Haslimawati bte Suhaili. Other speakers included Rose Clark, Debbie Smith, and Carlin Lee.
-- by Zasika Musdi